Technology, Customer, ecommerce, Marketing, mistakes, Online, Shopping
Mon, 21 Apr 2014 04:57:56 +0000
In our parents’ time (unless you’re a 14-year old reading this), setting up a company meant taking huge loans, acquiring office space, employing a large bandwagon of employees, getting government licenses, and a long wait for all of these to fall in place before you could start operations. Today, you can think of a novel business idea in the morning and reach out to millions of prospective customers by evening through your very own store on the World Wide Web. But of course, you know this already. With the proliferation of D-I-Y tools like Weebly and Wix, a 5 year old (okay, a 10 year old) could put up a spanking new website in a couple of hours. Social media, online PR, blog posts and good old fashioned word of mouth will get you all (or at least, most of) the eyeballs you want. What a lot of online retailers out there don’t give enough thought to is the things they might be doing that actually hurt their business instead of the other way round. Let’s take a closer look at some of these unforgivable self-flagellations. 1. Building walls around your site Common sense says that you’d want as many shoppers as possible to come to your website and hopefully buy your products/services. Many marketing “gurus” say that building an email list is the only way you can build a thriving community of buyers. In this frenzy to capture email IDs of every human being that stumbles upon their site, business owners create sign up forms that act as a wall that visitors are expected to scale before they can even begin to see your merchandise. Even worse, many of these “database generation silver bullets” and “conversion rate enhancers” are actually impenetrable without supplying a host of personal details and verifying code. In this day and age of attention spans the size of a paramecium, do you really want to make a potential customer jump through all those hoops just to arrive at your home page? Unless a visitor has some very specific interest in something that you offer on such a site, you’ve lost them forever. A good way to check if your list building fervor is losing you customers is to check your bounce rate. The average bounce rate for ecommerce sites hovers between 20 – 40%. Is your bounce rate way over the mark? If yes, you know you need to make your website easier to access. Image Source: KISSmetrics There are tons of ways you can build your database or track a customer’s journey across your site. Building the next Great Wall around your site is not one of them. 2. Doing a tortoise act Remember the dial up days of yore when we waited patiently for minutes on end for each page to load and then proceeded to repeat it again for the next page? Thankfully, those tortuous days are behind us, and we don’t really need a coffee refill by the time most webpages load. There’s one problem to our new and improved state of affairs though. Expectations have swung to the other extreme and the race to the finish line was never this crazy. According to another study by KISSmetrics, 47% of web users today expect a website to load in 2 seconds or less. Image Source: Visualwebsiteoptimizer Want to rank higher on Google? Speed up your site, for Pete’s sake! Waste no time in finding out your current page load times and plugging the gaps. Get started with free to use tools like Yahoo’s YSlow or Pingdom. 3. Not focusing on marketing A “Build it and they will come” level of confidence is alright if you have people camping outside your stores days before your new product launches, a la Apple. To be fair, even Apple marketed the game-changing iPhone in the early years with a memorable ad campaign that began with a simple “Hello.” Most ecommerce startups spend so much time perfecting the layout, design, service delivery and a million other frills on their website, they barely have the time (or energy) left to whip up a brilliant marketing campaign on the side. While it would be great to have the resources to plan and execute digital and offline campaigns that do full justice to your dream project, there’s no shame in starting small. Some of the easy (and free!) things you could get started with are: 1. Leverage the power of social media by creating and regularly posting interesting updates to your followers. Try and keep the fun stuff to sales plug ratio at 80:20 to continue to hold the attention and respect of your followers or shall we say, potential shoppers. 2. Start your own blog. A blog does not mean you list the minutes of yesterday’s brainstorm session with your programmers or go on and on about the last trade show you visited. Write about stuff that your customers would actually care about or be able to use. If you are an all-natural cosmetics retailer, you could give tips on keeping your skin supple in the summer sun or the dangers of toxic ingredients found in commercial lipsticks. 3. Use YouTube to your advantage. Take inspiration from the Dollar Shave Club, who have perfected the art of going viral in spite of a blatant product plug. The two major takeaways from this campaign? Keep it simple and tickle the viewer’s funny bone. Shopify offers some easy-to-implement guidelines on how to turn YouTube into your own 24-hour Shopping TV channel, only infinitely more interesting. 4. Reach out to synergistic brands and help each other out. A good example would be a photo printing site tying up with an electronic retailer to offer camera buyers on the electronics site 5 free photo prints. This not only offers value to your partner brand, it also drives traffic to your site. The cost of customer acquisition through brand partnerships is significantly lower than most traditional methods of customer acquisition. 4. Donning the black hat Remember what your Mom taught you – being naughty can get you spanked. Stop, thinking dirty (I know you did, for a minute, you did!) and think of Big Brother Google who can make or break your website’s future by penalizing it till you mend your ways for good. It’s great that your business has the resources to devote to marketing, but where you put your money matters a lot. Especially after the Panda and Penguin updates, Google does not hesitate in blacklisting entire sites even if a single page is the prime offender. If your intention is to build a long-term business that brings value to you and your customers, these are some of the tactics that you ought to steer clear of: Content stuffing: A no-brainer really; keyword stuffing was so overdone right from the early 2000’s that you might as well have not bothered with the Web 2.0 at all. The modern form of this is content stuffing – creating content that just talks about your products and services and bores the crap out of people. Misleading redirect links: Tricking a user into clicking a link to your home page when the user expected something entirely different will not only get you no buyers, but will also flush your credibility down the drain. Buying links: Pay for your marketing, surely. But links that you pay for are often from spammy, illegitimate websites that you get no ranking benefit from Google for all the money you blew. With time, search engines have smartened up and this is one of the surefire ways to get your site banned by Google. 5. Not being mobile-ready An average user in 2013 spent about 1.8 hours consuming media just on their mobile phone. Unless you are living under a rock, you’ve been bitten by the smartphone bug by now. Image Source: INCRIdea Indonesia Today, mobile traffic accounts for 15% of all web traffic. More importantly for ecommerce sites, a ComScore study shows that 4 out of 5 US smartphone users use their mobile devices to shop. Imagine the number of additional customers you would gain by ensuring your ecommerce site is mobile optimized? But it’s not just your website that needs to be mobile ready. We are talking a mobile-first approach here. As per this study, in developing countries including China and India, the mobile is the first screen that consumers use to access the internet, unlike the United States or Europe where it is still the second screen of preference (due to the large established desktop PC base). This means mobile optimized emails, a clear budget for mobile advertising, and actively building future additions to your site from a mobile-first perspective. 6. Confusing your users How many times have you closed an ecommerce site, frustrated with the endless digging you had to do to arrive at a product that interests you? User experience (UX) deals with the first impressions that a user has after landing on your site. Many factors contribute to a killer UX, including colors, images, merchandising, navigation, find-ability, consistent site architecture, secure and quick checkout process, and so on. It’s really simple. If you want the user to buy a particular product, make it easy for them to find it in the first place. Avoid overwhelming the user on your home page with a million products merchandised. Try your best to avoid distractions like flashing banners and pop ups that will divert the user from your primary goal – making a sale. Make navigation less of a bitch. Put yourself in the user’s shoes and try to build your site structure as intuitively as possible from there. A clean UX with a well thought out site hierarchy is not just a pleasure to use, but the planning you put into your site architecture also pays off SEO dividends by making your pages more easily discoverable by Google. 7. Wearing them out at checkout ‘1-Click’ buying may be pioneered by Amazon, but most ecommerce sites still ask you to fill up multiple forms, check off on newsletter subscriptions, give every personal detail imaginable before you can whip out your credit card and pay for the purchase already. Shopping cart abandonment is probably one of the most heartbreaking of metrics for ecommerce business owners. After all the efforts you put in to get the user to your site, interest them in a product, get them to start to buy the product, the user dropping off halfway through the checkout is a big deal. A very big deal, in fact 69.5% of users abandon shopping carts midway through the checkout process. As per a UX design study conducted by Smashing Magazine, the average checkout process among the top 100 ecommerce sites was 5.08 steps. The graph below shows that the usability score (or the ease of use) for ecommerce sites starts falling drastically when their checkout processes have 7 steps or more. Image Source: Smashing Magazine So what can you do to prevent abandoned shopping carts? Don’t ask for unnecessary details, it adds to user fatigue Keep the checkout flow linear. Don’t have sub sections that take the customer away from completing the purchase. Allow the option of guest checkout (bears repeating). 24% of the top 100 ecommerce sites still force a user to sign-in in order to make a purchase. Show the final price of the product before the end of the checkout process. After all, no one likes rude shocks; especially when it comes to money you’re parting with. 8. Ignoring customer communication With so many communication platforms available today, it’s not easy as a business owner to stay on top of each one. Trouble is, the cost of missing out on communication from a customer is too high for you to not go that extra mile. If you have a social media presence (who doesn’t!), EXPECT customers to write to you with their problems and queries. Even though you might look at social media as a free marketing tool, for most users; Twitter, Facebook and the like are platforms to voice their dissatisfaction (frequently, also satisfaction) with the brands that they consume. According to different studies, while 50% of customers gave a brand only one week to respond to their complaint before switching service providers, a shockingly low 30% of customers actually received responses to their tweets! The upside to this is that when a brand does reply to a customer tweet, 83% of customers love it. Such a simple way of making your customer feel special and preventing them from switching to competition! Customer communication does not always have to be complaint redressal or a sales pitch. An often overlooked aspect of customer communication is reaching out to a customer and saying, “Thank you!” With technology (such as triggered emails) on your side, the long road to customer retention is definitely walkable.
Architecture, beautiful, bridge, creative, world
Fri, 18 Apr 2014 05:48:42 +0000
Building a bridge is extremely challenging to say the least. The design of a bridge usually depends on its function, the nature of the terrain, the materials used to make it, and the amount of money available to build it. Below you’ll find twenty-five beautiful bridges from around the world. These masterpieces are truly inspiration, reminding us that humans are capable of achieving incredible things. Enjoy! Pont du Gard Bastei Bridge in Sächsische Schweiz, Germany Chengyang Bridge, China Ponte Vecchio, Italy Stari Most, Bosnia and Herzegovina Verrazano Narrows Bridge, New York Tokyo Gate Bridge Infinity Loop Bridge Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Lego Bridge by Megx Python Bridge, Holland Rolling Bridge in Paddington Basin, London Tower Bridge, London, UK Magdeburg Water Bridge, Germany The Bridge of Immortals: Huangshan, China Sky Bridge @ Langkawi, Malaysia Storseisundet Bridge, Norway Trampoline Bridge, Paris Charles Bridge, Prague Mostar Bridge, Bosnia Xiying Rainbow Bridge, Taiwan Capilano Suspension Bridge @ Vancouver, BC Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, Japan Jadukata Bridge, India Millau Viaduct, France
Self Development, Development, explore, invest, learn, personald, Read
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 06:06:36 +0000
Investing time in yourself is way better than investing money into something or someone else. When you invest in yourself and build valuable skill sets, you will never have to worry about unemployment again. If you were to strip Bill Gates of his assets and put him out on the street, he’d be back to earning a comfortable income in about a week. Why? Because he has tons of human capital. Sometimes the stress of life (bills, cleaning, children, etc.) can really start to take a toll on us, and it’s unfortunate. After sleeping and work, we only get about 8 hours a day to spend on other activities. You should utilize this free time by doing things you truly enjoy and also benefit you (killing two birds with one stone). To help get you started, I’ve listed a few of my favorite ideas below. Learn a new language I could go on all day about the benefits of learning a new language, but I’ll spare you the details. Just keep in mind that it’s going to help you, both personally and financially, if you do. I’ve been working on my Spanish for a while now, and I don’t regret it for a moment. There are HUNDREDS of resources for you out there, find one. Personally, I use YouTube, it’s free and I can do it whenever I want. Podcasts are also very useful. Read books When was the last time you even picked up a book? If you’re like most people today, it’s been months or even years. I know, growing up, I always saw my grandfather reading books, and always wondered why he was so cultured. They offer a chance to explore something you’re unfamiliar with, dive deeply into a fantasy or learn something new. Books are one of my favorite ways to relieve stress; just another benefit to think about. Go back to school (or participate in webinars and workshops) I know, school is time-consuming and expensive. However, no matter your age you can still go back. Financial aid programs are available to most people, and there are thousands of scholarships. Now that you can’t come up with financial excuses, think about time. There are so many online colleges today that offer full 4 year programs that you can take advantage of. If you’re not ready for that, consider workshops (resume building, French cuisine, parenting, etc.) and webinars that will really help you develop your skills. Write a book Now, this is something you should strongly consider doing before you die. I only recently started working on mine. And by working on, I mean I have a few ideas. Seriously, if you’re looking for a way to invest your time, write something that you want to share. It could be anything, and that’s what’s great about it. Even if you never get published, you created something! If you’re not ready for that, think about creating a blog. Just write about your cat or your crazy neighbors. This will develop your writing skills and give you a public voice. Explore You don’t need to get on the next plane to Haiti, but you could at least go spend a weekend camping. Maybe you’ve never gone out for Mexican food, and know of a local place your friends have been talking about. Spending some time in a place you’re unfamiliar with will give you a chance to explore new cultures, learn new skills (like making a camp fire), and will get you away from your daily life. Not to say our daily lives are terrible, but getting out never hurts. Discuss things you don’t agree with I love developing new ideas. In fact, my political ideology has completely shifted in the past three years because I’ve been paying attention. Spend some time seeing things from someone else’s view. Craigslist has a ‘rants and raves’ section that is open to dialogues about just about anything. Quora is another great resource to learn new things and discuss differing viewpoints with others who care. Who knows, you might switch someone to your point of view. Work out I’m not going to go on and on about getting in shape, but if it’s something you’ve been thinking about, wait no more, get going. PlanetFitness is just about everywhere in the US and costs $10 a month. If you’re not into the gym, grab yourself a yoga video — stress relief and a fit body in no time. Volunteer I never used to see the point in volunteering my time, but it’s benefited me greatly. First, it looks wonderful on a resume. Second, you’re helping your community. Third, you can make industry contacts who can offer references, jobs, and ideas. Most importantly though, it really helps you learn a new skill. Make something I was never really the best artist, and art classes used to stress me out. That’s alright though, I found my comfort zone in music. It’s not something I still practice, but it was a lot of fun. There are tons of things you can partake in or create, the only limit is your imagination. Good luck!
Tools, Commercial, download, free, Guide, music, Resources, royalty
Wed, 16 Apr 2014 05:14:15 +0000
This is my ultimate guide to royalty free music. So if you’re working on a commercial or personal video, these websites are your best friends. I haven’t made many videos in the past, but I’m getting more interested in them, so I figured I would share some valuable resources I’ve recently stumbled upon. Royalty free means that you can use copyrighted material or intellectual property without the need to pay license fees. So basically after paying a one-time license fee you can use the song as much as you want. For more information about how music licensing works, check out this article. Please Note: This list contains free and payed resources. It’s very important for you to read the fine line about licensing and usage. By the way, if you work with any sort of video you, you should strongly consider starting your own music/sound library. By creating one you will drastically improve your workflow. Simply buy an external hard drive, preferably 1TB or more, and start building your collection. So with that being said, let’s get started. Freemusicarchive.org – The Free Music Archive offers free downloads under Creative Commons and other licenses. You can search by genre or by some of their favorite mixes. Freemusicforvideos.com – Another wonderful place on the web where you’ll be able to find hundreds of cheap songs. They offer a few selections for free, and they are always changing, so be sure to check in frequently at this site. Incompetech.com – This website is run by Kevin MacLeod. As long as you credit him you can use his music for almost any kind of project. If you’re not 100% sure about using his music check out the FAQ. Vimeo.com/musicstore – This site has been known for helping people do everything they need to create beautiful videos. They have a great mix of free and very low-cost tracks that will get you started on the right foot. Machinimasound.com – Another great resource for the creative mind to explore. They allow you to search by genre, and give out plenty of free tracks that will help you make your videos. Musicrevolution.com – Most of the songs they offer require payment, however in their free section you can get a standard license for 40 tracks. Pacdv.com – Since 2001, PacDV has been producing royalty free sounds for filmmakers, sound designers, music producers, film students, and multimedia developers. They also offer a service that allows you to make your own sounds using their digital instruments. All they ask in return is a quick mention in your credits. Museopen.com – If you’re like me and a fan of open source software, you might find this site similar. They offer music at absolutely no cost, but most of their music is classical. Sonnyboo.com – Sonnyboo is a wonderful resource for filmmakers. They provide free docuemnts, music, videos, images, sound FX, articles about movie making, storyboards, and fonts. All the royalty free songs are composed and performed by Peter John Ross. You’ll need to credit them if you wish to use their music commercially. Soundclick.com – This site offers hundreds of songs. Simply sign up for a free account and search for songs labeled under Creative Commons. Publicdomain4u.com – Like the name suggests, this website provides public domain music you can use for your projects. Every single song on this website can be used by members of the public. Opsound.org – Music on this website uses the copyleft license developed by Creative Commons. Basically, Copyleft allows you to take a creative work and modify it freely. The only catch here is that your new modified version has to be free as well. DanoSongs.com – Dan-O is a gifted composer who offers his music completely free of charge for you to use. This gives him a chance to shine for only the cost of a link and mention in your credits. Freesoundtrackmusic.com – This site offers hundreds of free songs at no cost. Just like DanoSongs.com all they ask of you is to credit the composer and link back to their website. One cool thing I like about this site is that you can search for compositions via color codes matched to different emotions. ccMixter – They describe their website better than I can, so here you go: “ccMixter is a community music site featuring remixes licensed under Creative Commons where you can listen to, share, sample, mash-up, or interact with our music.” Beatpick.com – If you’re making a non-profit video, you have a range of options to obtain free music from this website. If you plan to use a song for any other reason, then you’ll have to pay for licensing. No worries thou, their pricing is very reasonable. Premiumbeat.com – Looking for more choices than some of the other sites listed? Premiumbeat is your answer. With thousands of hand-picked songs for you to use, this is the goldmine of royalty free music. They offer sounds in both MP3 and WAV format. Most licences run about $40. Audiojungle.net – Part of the Envato Marketplace family, AudioJungle offers royalty free audio files starting at $1. Here you will find high quality music loops, music packs, sound effects, source files, logos & idents. Jewelbeat.com – This site offers some great tunes for only $2.99 a pop. They also offer their entire music library of 30,000+ songs for only $299. Freesound.org – A collaborative database of CC licensed sounds. Very useful if you’re looking for something specific. Simply type in your search term and you’ll be flooded with choices. I hope this article has helped you. Feel free to bookmark it for future use. Good luck on your projects!
Shop, books, ebooks, Education, globe, literature, Travel
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 05:36:56 +0000
If you’re thinking about traveling the globe, it’s completely worth it, but you might want to consider reading some great literature on the subject before you take off. Having a better understanding will actually help you have a better time in your travels. Below I’ve listed my favorites travel books that will help you get a grip before you take your trip. These books will teach you an abundance of information. You’ll learn about cultural norms, how to find cheap flights, how to pack lightly, how to find work while you travel, and much more. As always, I’m not here to sell you snake oil. If you don’t wish to take my word please read the reviews. All of these books can be purchased on Amazon.com, so before you click the buy button see what others have said about it. Without any doubt these books have changed my perspective about travel, which I’m deeply thankful for. If you’re a bit skeptical about traveling the world, which I assume you are, these books will definitely open your eyes. Enjoy! Life Nomadic by Tynan (Available for Kindle too) For those like me, a little more on the nomadic side, this book is a wonderful resource. Tynan gives some great advice for practical matters and will inspire you to travel the globe. The best part about this book is how it taught me to travel for next to nothing. With this book, you have a unique opportunity to learn how to take cruises, book hotels and flights for just pennies on the dollar. It’s hard to believe, but there are methods to make it work for those of us who aren’t in that 1%. Tynan also provides some incredible packing tips, teaches you how to adapt to culture, and shows you how to utilize technology to your advantage. It’s a good read. Depending on your reading speed, you can probably finish it in one day. Buy $3.99 – $17.99 How to Live a Life of Travel by Derek Earl Baron (Wondering Earl) If you’re a casual traveler, this is probably not the best book for you. This is for those who want to turn their light travels into a lifestyle of exploring, learning, and adventuring. This book is the ultimate guide to learning how to make ends meet, eat frugally, and sleep for next to nothing, if not free, all around the world. The best thing that this book offers is a solution to all my objections to traveling. It told me why it’s alright to travel alone, what immunizations to get, and how to deal with people who don’t like the idea of me traveling (The old, “It’s too dangerous to travel the world,” argument). I would highly recommend this book to future travelers. Buy $27.00 This Book Is About Travel by Andrew Hyde (Available for Kindle too) This is more than a book, it’s a manual. Andrew spent almost two years on the road traveling to 15 countries with only a backpack of 15 things. If you’re looking to learn the stories and adventures of those who make the jump into a life of travel with only a backpack, then this is your guide. Buy $3.99 – $9.00 Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts This is my favorite out of all seven books on my list. Rolf talks about the advantage of taking time off from your normal life and traveling the world. He talks about how travel can truly be for anyone and provides great detail about how to travel on a budget, decide where you’re going to go, and even how to get work while on the road. If you had to only read one book about traveling, this book would be my top pick. Buy $8.06 – $8.48 The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World by Chris Guillebeau I’ve never been a big fan of self-help books, but this one is an exception because it goes much further than just letting you know how to live your life differently. Chris Guillebeau is the New York Times bestselling author of The $100 Startup. In this book he addresses some of the biggest issues with traveling and conformity. This is the ultimate guide to learning how to work for yourself while making large goals achievable. Buy $9.53 – $10.03 How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter by Matt Kepnes The biggest objection that most people have against traveling the world is that it’s expensive. Kepnes does a wonderful job debunking that myth. Not only will this book be your guide to finding cheap alternatives to the biggest expenses in traveling, but it will also help you through your journey of experiencing this beautiful planet. If you’re unsure about $9, feel free to check out his travel blog (Nomadicmatt.com) to get an idea of what he is all about. Buy $9.02 – $9.49 Off Track Planet’s Travel Guide for the Young, Sexy, and Broke by Editors of Off Track Planet This book explores 100 different and exciting destinations all around the world that you’ve always wanted to travel to. Learn about the best places in the world to get inked, why you should try to eat bugs and of course, where to party harder than you ever have in your life. This book truly gives you a little bit of everything that you’ve been waiting for. Buy $9.99 – $11.84